More than two

When asked if my cup is half-full or half-empty my only response is that I am thankful I have a cup.

Sam Lefkowitz

It seems everything is framed dualistically:

“If you’re not for me, you’re against me.”

“You don’t support Biden/Trump, therefore you must support Trump/Biden.”

“Vax. Anti-vax.”

“Left. Right.”

“Black. White.”

“Good. Evil.”

The perspective is understandable. As humans, our monkey brains do tend to group things rather simplistically into “us vs them”, “like vs. dislike”, “friend vs. foe”. If it’s not palatable to me, it must taste bad.

Perhaps.

What Sam Lefkowitz’s statement reveals is there exists another perspective, one that doesn’t fit neatly into a dualistic container. Yes technically if you’re a “cup half full”, then the perspective of “just have a cup” does fit into the “other viewpoint” container along with “cup half empty”. But despite being crammed into the same cup, it’s not the same viewpoint.

With nearly 8 billion people on this Earth, I’m certain there are those diametrically opposed to me, my thoughts, my beliefs, my existence. But statistics being what they are, most of those 8 billion are going to lie somewhere in between – somewhere in the gray.

If someone holds a belief different from mine, we are better served taking a nondualistic approach seeking to understand their perspective.

Smoked Pork Ribs – trial 1

For Thanksgiving 2021 we opted for pork ribs. Wife likes to shop early, and at the time there were no turkeys in stock. I looked around at what was available and pork ribs were plentiful so I picked up 4 racks. Plus, I hadn’t yet smoked ribs on my Traeger (Ironwood 650), so might as well give it a shot.

I’m actually not a big rib fan/cooker. They’re fine and all, but for whatever reason I’ve just not smoked ribs all that much. So this would be an adventure.

I started with Traeger’s “Smoked Pork Ribs by Timothy Hollingsworth“. In case that recipe goes away, here’s the gist of it:

Ingredients

  • 1 Rack pork spare ribs
  • salt & pepper
  • 2 cups ketchup
  • 2.5 cups apple cider vinegar
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1.25 cup molasses
  • 0.33 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 3 tbsp yellow mustard
  • 3 clove garlic, chopped
  • small yellow onion, sliced
  • 1 tbsp Tabasco pepper sauce
  • 1 tbsp crushed chile flakes
  • 1 tbsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp mustard powder

Now, that’s a LOT of sauce. I had 6 racks of ribs. Mrs. Hsoi prepared a double of that sauce, and I still had a little over half left over. So… adjust as you see fit.

Here’s what I did, which is a combination of the original recipe plus the stuff I did to make it go.

  1. Remove ribs from the fridge, let come to room temperature. Trim off any excess fat, and remove the silverskin on the back side of the ribs. Season evenly with flake kosher salt and pepper. Let sit for a bit while things come up to room temperature and the grill is made ready.
  2. Set the grill at 220º. I turned on Super Smoke. I used hickory pellets. Let the grill come up to temperature.
  3. Place the ribs on the grill. I used one of those “rib racks” that position the ribs upright so you can fit more into the smoker – 5 of the racks went in there, 1 was flat on the grill surface.
  4. Leave them in for 1.5 hours.
  5. After 1.5 hours, baste generously in the sauce. Put them back in, rotated/flipped from how they were.
  6. Leave them in for another 1.5 hours (3 hours total).
  7. After 3 hours, take the ribs out and wrap each rack individually in foil. Return to the grill. Stick the probe thermometer in somewhere.
  8. According to the recipe, it should take an additional hour to get up to temp, but that wasn’t happening. Maybe because it was cool out? I don’t know. But when I first inserted the probe the temp of the meat was about 135º and not moving. So I cranked the grill temp to 275º and sure enough the meat temp began to steadily climb.
  9. When the meat hit 200º I took them off. NOTE: there was a LOT of liquid inside the foil, so had to be mindful when I was removing them because draining happened.
  10. I left them wrapped in the foil and let it rest for about 15-20 minutes.
  11. Unwrap, slice, eat.

Results

Wow.

This was fantastic.

The meat was cooked and tender. A couple of the racks simply fell apart so there wasn’t any cutting/slicing to do. The sauce didn’t form a layer – it was nice and worked into the meat. There was good caramelization, just not a crust – which I like, because to me sauce should complement, not cover nor be the focus. In fact, I’m generally reluctant to use sauce, but I gotta admit that here it worked quite well.

Cooked way too much. Completely overestimated how many racks I would need to feed 5 people, then adding 2 last-minute guests (picked up 2 racks simply because of that). I think for our family we could get away with 2 racks, maybe do 3 because there will be the grill space and leftovers are always good. If we did just 2-3 racks, I’d want to cut the sauce recipe in half from how it’s written – I don’t know how in the world they figured those amounts, but as written it’s way too much.

Would absolutely do this recipe again.

Random thoughts about it

The recipe itself was geared towards 3 hours unwrapped, 1 hour wrapped, and that should get it up to 202º internal temperature. That was NOT happening. Not sure why, but not sweating it too much. I think the crank to 275º was fine to finish things.

There was a LOT of liquid in the foil, which stands to reason. I wonder what would happen if I used butcher paper instead of foil. I mean, that helps a bit on the smoke side, but might there be so much moisture that the paper “melts”? Or that too much moisture is lost and the meat won’t be as moist and tender?

I think hickory wood was the best/right choice. I’m not sure any other wood would work here.

Kosher flake salt is a wonderful thing. I’ve found being moderate with it on the raw meat (any meat, not just this recipe/instance) for a little bit before cooking to be great. Not too much, not too little either. And not too much time needed – simply putting it on as the meat comes up to room temp and the grill is heating up is generally enough.

I continue to be impressed with the Traeger. Sometimes I still wish for a more pronounced smoke flavor, but the smoke flavor you get is present and not overpowering. The fact you get this flavor coupled with really even and controllable temps, and then the probe thermometer – it just makes cooking go well and product generally great results. I do wish the pellets “drained” a little better, because it just creates a big funnel hole and then the hopper indicator beeps that it’s almost empty when a simple redistribution “fills it” back up; small gripe. Oh and cleaning up after these ribs was a pain – all that sauce drip, pork fat, all baked onto stuff pretty good. Got it cleaned up, but sure was more work. Still tho, the Traeger is great.

Is this thing still on?

It’s been a while, hasn’t it?

I didn’t choose to stop writing… it just faded.

When I started this blog in 2009 I made the rule I had to post every day. It didn’t have to be something deep – and often it was just gym logs – but at least there was the discipline of a post every day: that I wrote one, that I published one, that readers saw (and maybe read). Come 2015, a major event in my life caused blogging to abruptly stop and my streak broken. That event lasted a while, and when I came back to it the spark was extinguished. Plus various things in life were changing and time and energy to write just wasn’t there. As of late, the blog’s just been nothing but Sunday Metal posts, which at least I was able to keep going because I could sit for a couple hours, schedule 6 months of posts, then move on.

A few years ago I had a major day job shift. I found myself writing less – or sometimes no – code at all. I was leading projects, considering bigger pictures, people-ing. Programming was a primary creative outlet for me – it’s my art. Solving someone else’s problem is merely my canvas. But as my day job duties shifted, so too did my creative outlet fade away. Oh sure I COULD do programming on nights and weekends, but in reality after a long day I want to get away from the computer, and my weekends are mostly filled up with teaching at KR Training. Then add in time for family, gym, etc. and there’s just not time nor energy remaining.

Oh sure, I did a complete rewrite of PanemQuotidianum in SwiftUI a few months back. That was fun. But interestingly it didn’t move me that much. As I’ve been telling people “Oooooh… yet another TableView”. It was cool to fiddle around more in the new hotness of SwiftUI, but there didn’t feel much challenge. It didn’t sing to me like programming once did.

I’ve realized… my creative outlets have faded. In fact, since taking on my new day job position as Director of Technology, all I do is meetings and people-ing. Don’t get me wrong, that in and of itself is fine for where I am in life – it’s just not an artistic/creative outlet.

I was lamenting to Mrs. Hsoi how I just don’t have any creative outlets any more. I don’t program nor have the time or energy for it. KR Training work is fun, but it’s work and not a lot of creative outlet (tho it has research outlets). The gym isn’t creative – it’s work, it’s fun, there’s satisfaction, but it’s not a place to pour my creative juices.

I started to think I needed a hobby – all my hobbies have turned into jobs/work. LOL I’ve always wanted to explore blacksmithing, but that’s not feasible right now. Working on engines was cool, but is that necessarily creative for me? And the more I thought about it, I realized it’s not a hobby I need.

I’ve noticed over the past some whiles as I take longer distance/time drives, I don’t listen to music or podcasts – I just think. I’m alone in the car, I can talk out loud, I can be silent, I can do whatever. I realize what I’ve been needing is just that: time to think. I spend all my days just acting and reacting to what’s going on (a fire over here, a problem over there, another meeting, etc.) – when do I ever get to just deeply think any more? I don’t. I miss that. My best work came from being able to just think about stuff. And it’s not something I can schedule: “Oh, it’s 10:00am, time for 1 hour of thinking!”. It’s about just allowing my schedule to have time to breathe.

The other day while driving to the KR Training facility it really hit me:

What I need: it’s not so much creative building, it’s creative thinking.

To program for the sake of programming – to make an app – that’s building. It’s not the building, it’s the thinking that goes into that building. Looking back, it’s why I have so many unfinished projects: it wasn’t about building that thing, it was thinking through a concept or a method or exploring or some other thinking, and once I finished that thought, it was done.

I’ve been collecting a lot of things in my notes – things that I would love to write about, but I don’t because of lack of time. But if I really look, I do have some time. I cut back on gym visits from 4x to 3x per week to better mesh with helping my sons train. But I still wake up early on Tuesday and Thursday, and I’ve found myself wasting that time because I don’t want to start the day job but I can’t do other life things either (e.g. make phone calls, schedule work, etc. because the people I need to talk with aren’t up and working yet). So I watch YouTube videos or other things to pass the time, and while a little relaxation is good, I’ve been finding myself feeling like I’m wasting time.

So… why not try writing again.

I’ve got things I want to write about. I’ve actually got a little time here and there.

I don’t plan on forcing myself to post every day or even every week. I have no idea what the cadence will be. I would like my writing to be better. This post is rambling because I’m just pouring my thinking out, and those posts are fine for what they are. But I also want to better compose particular thoughts. I want to see if I can be a better writer, or at least a more thoughtful one.

So let’s see… let’s see if this breathes life back into me.